August 15, Independence Day, is celebrated in a mood of abandon and joy - no rituals, just festivities. It is also a national holiday, with educational institutions, private and government organisations remaining closed, but for official celebrations in the morning.
Schools and colleges mark the day with cultural activities, drills, flag hoisting and distribution of sweets. Government as well as private organisations celebrate it similarly.
Families and friends get together for lunch or dinner, or for an outing. Housing colonies, cultural centres, clubs and societies hold entertainment programmes and competitions, usually based on the freedom theme.
The Prime Minister sets the mood by hoisting the national flag and addressing the nation from the Red Fort, the historical monument in Delhi. This is accompanied by a march-past of the armed and police forces. Similar ceremonies are held in all the state capitals. The Prime Minister's address and the march-past are relayed live on national television.
In cities, one sees a sudden burst of saffron, green and white, the Indian tri-colour. The media goes to town with a variety of contests, promotions and programmes related to Indian independence. Television channels show patriotic movies and relentlessly play patriotic songs from old and new Hindi movies. Billboards on roadsides for different brands pay their tribute to the nation.
Everyone seems to have something going for them. Shops and petty tradesmen sell a range of Independence Day merchandise such as flags, stickers, tee-shirts and greeting cards. Street urchins hawk paper and plastic flags and tri-coloured balloons to motorists at traffic signals.
Though a trifle commercial and jingoistic, what lies beneath the celebrations is the national spirit of gaiety, pride and hope for a better future. A spirit and hope that is renewed each year. pkn